Tell us your name and a little about yourself.
Hi! I’m Jan Hogrewe, founder of Just Jan’s. Just Jan’s is a gourmet/specialty food company. Our products are all-natural, and preservative-free, we’re known for our fruit spreads, Meyer lemon curd, and award-winning Tangerine Sriracha. I started this company out of my kitchen, and have been in business now for over 8 years. At that time our product has been sold in retail stores across the country.
What exactly does your company do?
Hopefully, we help you make new food memories. What we really do though is making some of the highest quality fruit spreads, sauces and specialty food products on the market. In addition to the products we create for our own line, we have also created products for some of the largest gourmet retailers in the country. I initially started Just Jan’s out of my kitchen. Making fig spread was a hobby and outlet at a difficult time in my life. I had no idea it would become a business. If you go back even further though in a lot of ways, Just Jan’s started when I was growing up. My mom was a bit of an entertainer but not much of a baker, so whenever she hosted parties she asked me to bake. That was my first exposure to baking and having people enjoy my food. We also had fruit trees in our backyard, as well as around the neighborhood. Those fruits I grew up around became some of the first Just Jan’s flavors.
What were the biggest challenges you have faced and how did you overcome them?
I would say that the first biggest challenge I encountered was finding a co-packer who could make my fruit spreads exactly like mine. This was key to my feeling comfortable moving forward and took about a year. Although there are quite a number of co-packers who make jams and jellies nationwide they vary greatly.
The second biggest challenge was budgeting the business. Since I was a newbie in the food industry my knowledge on how to cost out getting from research and development to a final shelf-stable product took a lot of time. I also had to be very flexible in various aspects of what I wanted in order to keep costs down. For example, jars – I fell in love with an Italian jar that would have had to import by the container load from Italy! I quickly shifted gears to a jar made in the good ol’ USA since that beautiful Italian jar would have driven my final cost up another $1 per unit.
What piece of advice do you wish someone had given you at the start of your career?
This is a great question and I’m not sure because I’ve worked for myself most of my adult life, I’m not sure even if someone gave me a gem of advice I would have listened! That said – I would probably say, trust your gut. I cannot emphasize enough how much that helps you navigate. Also don’t second guess yourself. Both really work together.
Who are your biggest influences and people you admire and why?
There is one person who impacted my life more than most if not for her I would not be who I am today. Gracie. My dad died, right before I was born, so my mom hired Gracie to live with us and help take care of me and my brother. Gracie introduced me to so many life experiences and nurtured my creative side. It was Gracie who taught me canning and jam making. We would spend summers at her daughter’s farm in central California picking fresh, ripe peaches and preserving them. I remember sealing the jars with hot wax and enjoying the fruits of our labor for months to come.
I have also been inspired by many Chefs over the years and especially as I have embarked on this journey. However, the one who stands out is Roy Choi. A few years ago, Kris lent me his book, LA Son; My Life, My City, My Food. I read it as fast as I have ever read anything. Roy’s journey inspired me, it was not an easy path for him but when he realized his passion for the culinary world – that was it and he pursued it with abandon. Although our paths in the culinary world have been dramatically different, I deeply identified with his clarity and passion. Now that I have found what excites me creatively & professionally there is nothing else I want to pursue except to continue expanding in this world. I feel the possibilities are endless and every day brings the potential for inspiration and inventive promise.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are?
Yes, there are a number of friends to whom I’m grateful and helped me get to where I am. The first would be the stranger in the coffee shop who asked me the question that started it all – “I like your jam better than what’s on the market. Would you ever consider doing this for a living?”
Next up are my daughters who encouraged and supported my dream to make this hobby into an actual business. They were my very first taste testers. My friends who never tired of me bringing different flavors over to add to wine and cheese parties. Then there was a buyer at a national chain store who liked my products so much that she said when I was ready and co-packed in jars – she would launch them nationwide. That took a year and well, she didn’t let me down. Last but certainly not least is my friend, now partner, Kris. He was an early taste tester, he cheered me on and believed in me enough to want to work with me. When I told him I wanted him to work with me a full time he said he’d be crazy not to get on this train and ride with me!
All of the people who I meet at various shows and demos who purchase and then spread the word … the list is long but I am grateful to each and every one!
What do you see as your greatest success in life?
Personally – Raising my twin daughters, they are loving, caring individuals who are beautiful inside and out.
Professionally – starting Just Jan’s from a tree I planted and watching what I’ve created grow. Bringing family, friends and willing taste testers into this circle to share these experiences.
How can people follow your journey? Please list your social media URLs
Where can people purchase your product? www.justjans.com and we have a list of places where Just Jan’s is sold. Amazon and gourmet retailers.
Twitter – @justjansspreads
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